UGC: A Remedy for the Pain of Returns

by Grace Miller |

UGC: A Remedy for the Pain of Returns

A survey conducted by Body Labs found that 23 percent of all clothing purchased online gets returned. Naturally, the losses retailers have to bear due to returns is high, but the real point here is: why do people return products they have chosen to buy?

A study conducted by Shorr Packaging, found that the top reason shoppers return merchandise is because the product wasn’t what they expected. Several studies and reports have said that the discrepancy between the expectations customers have about products and what they actually get when products arrive on their doorstep is one of the biggest motives for returns. And in this case, the real question is: why don’t people get a complete view about products while still in the process of buying? You cannot completely eliminate returns, but you sure can minimize them.

While online fitting rooms have been pretty successful in lowering return rates, they are unfortunately only helpful for things like apparels and beauty products. They can’t do much for products like soap and hardware gadgets. Besides, a significant amount of resources has to go into setting such rooms. Thus, the solution to this problem needs to be much broader, universal and cheaper.  After looking into many things that could potentially meet these criteria, the only solution that seems to meet them all is User Generated Content, aka UGC.

UGC comes in many forms–ratings and reviews, questions and answers, and consumer generated photos are a few to name. Now, let’s see why UGC seems to be the best remedy for the stinging pain of product returns.

A) Ratings & Reviews:

Here’s a fact: consumers no longer believe in what marketers have to say about their own products. They want to know what people like themselves, namely other consumers, have to say about those products. They know that however sophisticated or creative a brand’s communication may be, it’s all marketing. And they know that ordinary people have no hidden agendas in writing product reviews. 88% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Naturally, it’s much easier for people to have trust in such reviews instead of celebrity endorsements or glitzy ads. Besides the trust that they bring, ratings and reviews also allow people to focus on whatever they care the most. For example, if a customer is convinced about certain specific features of shoes like color and design, but is unsure about the size factor, he or she can look for reviews from people who wear the same size and figure out what specifically they have said about sizing.


This review adjusts shoppers' expectations about the product, a sandal. In this case, the shoe runs wide, so browsers should be careful if they have narrow feet.
This review adjusts shoppers’ expectations about the product, a sandal. In this case, the shoe runs wide, so browsers should be careful if they have narrow feet.

And the more reviews from past buyers they see, the more likely they are to not create wrong expectations about a product. It’s no coincidence that on average, a product will be ordered nearly 44% more often once it starts receiving and displaying customer reviews. In addition to reducing return rates, you’ll also reduce shipping costs which can’t be ignored considering that UPS and FedEx are increasing shipping rates by 4.9% at the beginning of 2017, and that the US Postal Service has already raised its rates an average of 9.5%.

B) Visual Commerce:

Unfortunately while shopping online, consumers can’t try things on and look at themselves in the mirror before making a purchase decision. This benefit belongs to physical stores. Thus, when purchasing online, your customers are always in the dark about how something will fit them or even how a product really looks like in real life. They might buy a piece of clothing because they like the way it looks, however, there are things like body posture, features, and skin tone to be considered as well, since they define the way a piece of clothing will actually fit.

User generated photos–which you can collect, curate, and display on your site with a visual commerce solution–come very handy in this catch-22 situation, because they show your products being used by real people. That gives your potential customers a realistic and trustworthy insight about what your products really look like in real life.   You can also ask your customers to share photos and videos using your products and display them on your product pages. That allows shoppers to look for photos and videos of people with body features similar to theirs and have a better idea about how a certain piece of clothing would fit them.



88% of shoppers seek out visual content prior to making a purchase. Again, it comes back to the same enormous benefit: customers will have a much better idea of what to expect from a product before they make the decision to buy.

C)  Questions & Answers:

No matter how accurate and detailed your product descriptions are, your customers will always have questions. Questions & Answers can help you with that. When shoppers are not sure about the size of shoes, for example, instead of searching for ratings and reviews, they can directly ask about it to experts from your company, or even to existing customers who have bought that item.

The benefit here is that the doubt gets resolved fast. Plus, as the answers come from experts and people who already purchased that product, they bring extra credibility. And in the end, the customers don’t create unrealistic expectations about the product. In addition to all of that, Q&A also heightens up  your level of customer service and customer experience when you respond quickly to customers’ questions,. Customers definitely feel valued and wanted when they get quick replies from brands. Besides, it also helps in SEO as fresh content will be constantly fed into the website.

To Wrap It Up: UGC has always worked well in making contests, ads and brand promotions viral. Its core characteristics like cost and ease to use along with the stream of authenticity are at the helm of its success. And luckily, the same factors also work in reducing online returns.

Note: To know exactly how UGC helps a business, you can have a look at this blog. Besides, don’t forget to go through this blog where we have placed The Ultimate List of User Generated Content Statistics. In this blog, we have captured the most recent UGC trends.   

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